Early childhood development: a question of rights

Woodhead, Martin (2005). Early childhood development: a question of rights. International Journal of Early Childhood, 37(3) pp. 79–98.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03168347

Abstract

A right to development is one of the basic principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Several articles are specifically about protecting and promoting children's development, and other articles refer to developmental concepts of maturity and evolving capacity. Realizing young children’s right to development is informed by numerous sources: cultural understandings, beliefs and values as well as scientific knowledge and theories. I offer two contrasting ways of thinking about children’s rights to development. The first is summarised as three ‘Ns’, emphasising ‘normal’ development, children's ‘nature’ and their ‘needs’. The second is summarised as three ‘Cs’: recognising that development is ‘contextual’, ‘cultural’ and respecting children’s ‘competencies’. I explore the potential as well as the limitations of each approach, drawing attention to the tension between universalistic theories and the plurality of pathways through childhood, the respects in which development is a natural versus socio-cultural process, and the implications of recognizing children as active participants, with their own perspective on child development issues, while at the same time ensuring they are adequately guided and protected.

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